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Time to lower the drinking age?

By Scott Tibbs, August 27, 2008

Newsday.com reports that "College presidents from more than 100 schools" are calling for the national drinking age of 21 to be lowered to 18, arguing that lowering the drinking age would curb binge drinking. Indiana University is not part of the petition, although IU President Michael McRobbie "strongly believes people should be able to consume alcohol when they’re 18", according to IU spokesman Larry MacIntyre. Herald-Times columnist Mike Leonard wrote a commentary on the topic that was published on Sunday.

According to Newsday.com, "In 1984, Congress voted to penalize any state that set its legal drinking age lower than 21 by rescinding 10 percent of that state's federal highway funding." Whether setting the legal minimum at 21 is a good policy or not, it should be set by the states, not the federal government. In a nation of 300 million people that stretches from one end of the continent to another, the drinking age should not be set by 535 legislators in one city on the East Coast. Blackmailing states with threats of funding cuts if their internal policies are not what Congress deems appropriate is in direct opposition to the spirit of the Tenth Amendment. To review:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The philosophical arguments against having 21 as the minimum drinking age are familiar to most people. How is it that someone can fight, kill and die in a war at 18, but he is not mature enough to enjoy a beer in his living room? At 18, people are considered to be legal adults - but they cannot legally consume alcohol.

The biggest problem with lowering the drinking age is that many high school seniors would be legally able to purchase alcohol. Lowing the drinking age may be simple common sense, but one side effect could be an increase in teen drinking, which would not be a good thing. So I propose a compromise: lower the drinking age to 18, but only if the person who wishes to purchase or consume alcohol has a high school diploma or GED. Indiana already has a different format for younger drivers, so this would be relatively easy to implement. If you are 18 and no longer in school, bring in your diploma or GED and get a new license. Otherwise, you have to wait.

See previous articles:

November 20, 2003

March 24, 2006

April 25, 2008

May 12, 2008

May 13, 2008